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Captain Awkward and the Awkward Army,

I recently accepted a position in a line of work that is brand new for me, exciting, mentally stimulating, and will enable me to finally be financially stable. This is all great.

Except.

Except for one co-worker, a trainee who was hired on at the same time as me and is in the same stage of training.

This co-worker has a bad habit of openly watching me and waiting for me to screw something up. Then she loves to make a big deal about it and “correct” my errors. Laughs loudly and points it out to the senior techs.

I realize that this is not a big deal. But, I have some issues with being watched. Growing up, my mom threatened my siblings and me with hiding cameras in the house to make sure we weren’t “sinning” or doing anything wrong while both parents were gone (we were latchkey kids, and I was the authority on site, as oldest kid). She was just off enough that we believed her. It created an environment of deep suspicion and paranoia growing up.

I was recently diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder as well. So being watched with the obvious intent to catch me screwing up + being around strange people in general= a perpetually nervous me. I am very competent and have historically received high reviews on my work… as long as I wasn’t being micro-managed or stared at.

Obviously I don’t want the anxiety she gives me to translate into actual poor performance. I really enjoy this job. It involves animals, who are naturally more receptive to hyper-aroused states in their human handlers. I don’t want my anxiety translating into anxiety for them.

I’m working on the anxiety and self esteem issues with my therapist, as well as dealing with the weird shit left over from my past.

What I need help with is a script or scripts for dealing with this co-worker. Polite requests to allow my trainer to train me and correct any errors have been met with complete brush-offs and stories of what an amazing manager/student/daughter/sister she is, which clearly makes her more qualified to police me.

Help!

Visibly Anxious

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Dear Captain,

My brother-in-law is a joker. He’s a very nice man who gets along with everybody, an extrovert. He loves to joke with people, and he usually gives nicknames or uses a personality trait for humor. This is fine most of the time, but the “thing” he chose to use with me hits too close to home and it has become very hurtful. He calls me “lazy ass” (in a loose translation) and makes comments about how I’m disorganized and basically do nothing all day. Just today, he came over to “inspect” my apartment and comment on my mess, talked about how they’re going to use my spare room for the baby (“you don’t need it”) and how I’m going to babysit for them to “pay things over” or something like that. My sister just called to invite me over for coffee, and when I hesitated because I was actually studying, he asked “are you doing anything useful for a change?”.

I’m not really a lazy ass. I don’t work as hard as my sister, but I do work all afternoons and Saturday mornings, and I go to school every weeknight. I’m not an organized person, but I’m trying to do better. I’m not sure if this is because he thinks that I abuse my sister’s and my mother’s help. I don’t pay for cable and wi-fi (my sister lives next door and shares with me), and I don’t pay my apartment’s bills either. I can’t afford these things, but my parents’ house is an incredibly toxic environment and this is the arrangement we made (my mother, my sister and I). I don’t like it – I hate it. When I left their house after a terrible crisis I wanted to support myself, but my mother insisted that I should stay in the family’s apt (it was empty).

The thing is that we (mother and daughters) do have this “system” where we help each other. We call when we are going to the supermarket to check if anybody needs anything, they call me to offer rides when they’re out and they know I’m leaving work, we borrow and lend clothes. My bother-in-law, however, pretty much raised himself.

I realize I get help more than I give right now, but I don’t know what do to. Should I offer to clean their house once a week? Do their shopping? Ask them to change their wifi password and cut the cable from my side? I *am* planning to help when the baby comes, I’m not heartless. He’s only here a few days every few weeks, as he works in another city, but it’s become something that bothers probably more than it should.

Love,
Lazy Ass

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I’m a high school student, and I had a friend who turned into a stalker. My family, and the school counselor have really helped me through a lot of it. However, I need some help explaining to my friends at school, and the friends of the stalker, of how I absolutely will not be interacting with her, without having to go into all the painful and elaborate details of what happened. The assumption of my casual friends is usually that we had an argument, and now I’m being childish by refusing to speak to her. (Again, high school students, this seems to be a common assumption.) So some of my friends are trying to force me to interact with her. “Just be civil, hold a conversation, just be nice to her, etc.” The school counselor recommends I stay away from her, for my personal safety, and I agree with her.

I’m not worried about my best friends, who understand the issue, but the people who I’m not very well connected with. I don’t want to write a two-page thesis just to get them to understand the problem. I also feel that it’s a violation of my privacy to have to try to explain the issue to anybody who feels like knowing, and letting people know that the way to push my buttons is to bring up the subject. As well as I know that the stalker has been telling people false information, and that anything I tell these friends will likely wind up reaching her.

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